30 September 2015

coming home - part I

Ever since completing my Peace Corps service and departing from Ethiopia in June of 2014, I have struggled to find a way to close off this blog. At this point, there's no sense in trying to recount the events leading up to or following my departure. Instead, my sign-off will capture part of something I could not have anticipated at that time - a return to Ethiopia a mere 15 months later. This will be my final post, delivered in multiple parts. I am currently working on starting a new blog to document my experiences, opinions, and whatever else inspires me to write. I will post a link to that site here once it's up and running.

To everyone who supported me throughout my service, know that my gratitude is unending. With that, I give you, coming home - part I.

ET Flight 503 finalizes its descent through the gray rainy season morning enshrouding Addis Ababa, prompting a mild cheer throughout the cabin. I shoot upright and glance over at my new friend, Paul, an Ethiopian residing in Ottawa. “You made it,” he utters with a smirk, eyebrows raised to match. I quite literally fell asleep and woke up in Ethiopia.

Stepping out of the plane and making for tarmac, my lungs welcome the crisp air of 7,600 feet. Shuttling to Bole’s main hall, snaking through the visa-on-arrival line, and retrieving my bags all flash by with no real sense of time. I scan the wall of Ethiopian faces as I pass through customs.


I bank right upon exit, figuring to sit and collect myself before whatever came next. Just as I make my move, right there, standing in front of me, my brother – Foad – spotting me long before I had a chance to pick him out of the crowd. Our embrace tells everyone present all that needs to be said – we are family, reunited.

Foad and I were last together atop Tomoca CafĂ©*, peering over a pastel sunset sky punctuated by the imposing African Union building, on my last day in Ethiopia. We listened to "Konjiye" a melodic, accordion-laden love tune by Gosaye Tesfaye, unquestionably the most beautiful composition I’d encountered in country (and I barely understand a word of it!). I professed to him my affection for this mysterious, fascinating, and often vexing nation. Tears streaming down my cheeks stood testament.

My course has been no stranger to tribulation in the space between that moment and now, but through it all, reminiscence of My Abyssinia has offered regular comfort. Indeed, nary a day passed wherein I didn’t find myself lost in scenes of Bekoji’s surrounding peaks or drinking coffee with my host family or absorbing Addis through the lens of a line taxi. Reminiscence gave way to all-out longing. There could be only one prescription.

Shortly after my return to the States, I happened to read a bit about Baseball 4 Africa in a Pitch in for Baseball newsletter, the organization that set us up with some baseball gear for Bekoji Baseball. On a whim I decided to send an email to the founder, Jim Tamarack. Following a few exchanges, Jim offered an open invite to check out their program in Kenya. Once a layoff notice came across my desk in May, it was all but set: I would head for Ethiopia in September and make my way down to Kenya for October baseball.

And now, here I am. Again sitting opposite Foad. Again sharing macchiatos and affections for Ethiopia. Tomorrow I’ll hop a bus to Bekoji and waraj at Melestegnya. I’ll walk down my dirt road for a block and through the aluminum gate, just as I’d done every day for two years. There will be hugs and smiles and extra helpings of extended Ethiopian greetings along with Werknesh’s delectable wots. Can't wait. 

*Some of the best coffee you’ll find anywhere in the world. Please consider supporting Tomoca.

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